The night passed slowly. The faint sounds of crickets filled their room through the open window. The squabbling of raccoons picking through thrown out trash pierced the night. The animals sounded vicious in combat; the snarls and hisses belonging to demons told in old tales. Clancy was very familiar with all noises of the night. Sometimes he missed the serenity of sleeping on the plains. Constructing a teepee with old hides and telling stories amongst each other until falling asleep. It brought a sense of homesickness to him.
Clancy had taken the first watch. Despite having booked a room with Ms. Sylvia, neither man had trusted the Robertsons to not return. It was old habit as well. One man slept while the other watched. Nate was always the first sleep. Four hours later Clancy would shake him awake and begin his. By now it was little more than a routine; it was a lifestyle. Even so, Clancy didn't mind the silence. It let him think, clear his mind, and meditate.
Clancy had tied a thin, leather strap to the cushioned armchair he was sitting in. He had positioned himself in a corner, so that both the door and the single window were in his view. Swiping a knife against the worn leather strap, Clancy busied himself with the mundane task of knife sharpening.
The slow, rhythmic sliding was relaxing. The blade made only a slight whisper against the hide. Clancy was wearing only his beads and his trousers. What he deemed as "formal" wear was far to constricting. The long sleeved shirts that white men wore were far too constricting; being bare allowed one to become more aware of his surroundings. Having removed both his hat and eye patch, Clancy felt a bit more relieved. The old wound was able to breath in the security of the darkness. There were no gawking eyes.
His mind drifted a bit in thought. It brought him back to a reoccurring memory. Clancy was a young child; perhaps around four or five. The plains were like a green ocean. The waves of grass swayed with the wind. A blue sky reached for miles and miles before touching down on the earth. There were wagons; many of them. Many white people gathered around to a center point. There was someone cooking and others praying some gospel. A woman reached down for him with a warm smile on her face. Her blonde hair was tied under a bonnet, but the wind had wicked away a few curls from underneath. She kissed him on the forehead before someone called her attention away. It was a man. Her smile faltered a bit. She didn't want to leave him. The woman circled around a flock of hens and brought them in before moving towards the man.
A young Clancy's attention drew away from the woman. One of the chickens was escaping underneath the wagons and into the green abyss. He had seen her bring them in once already. Being a helpful child, he got up and made rounds towards the hen.
A light rap at the door broke his train of thought. Immediately, Clancy went tense. Gripping the hilt of the knife, he angled it defensively as he slowly stepped towards the door. Nate's slow breathing had stopped. Clancy knew that the knock had woke up his partner, but for safety's sake he remained motionless, as if he were still sleeping. Nate had always been a light sleeper. The night's excitement had been enough to set both men on edge, and every precaution had been taken to prevent a surprise attack.
Clancy turned the handle with such swift movement, grabbed the body that was standing in front of the door, brought the person inside, and then slammed the door shut behind him.
Then, she shrieked.
"What kind of men are you that just go around snatchin' up women in the night!?" It was Sylvia. She had something in her hands that was clutched to her chest. Her face was turned away slightly, eyes pressed tight. "I was coming to tell you boys somethin' and then you—"
"My apologies," Clancy interrupted, dropping his posture. He was embarrassed and Sylvia was making enough clamor to wake up the entire Inn.
Nate rose from the bed and went for his shirt. "You know it could have been anyone," he started, "You can never be too careful. Buck and his brothers are no doubt scourin' these parts since we arrived." Turning to the window, Nate eyed the empty roadway before him. It was still. The squabbling creatures and movements in the night had long dispersed. Perhaps it had been Sylvia's sudden shrieking, or it could very well be someone, or something else more ominous.
"My stable boy, Peter, says that the youngest one had been stopping around the stockade. He was eyeing your horses," Sylvia toyed with the small object it her hands. It was a key. "Here is the spare to your bedroom. I don't want to risk it up front." Sylvia placed the trinket into Clancy's hand. "That Mexican of theirs picks up on things like this. He's smart." Sylvia looked back to Nate. His back was still turned to both her and Clancy.
"I suggest the first thing you boys do tomorrow is head out. We've got enough trouble here and I don't like to see strangers getting involved in messes in Rosebud." Sylvia began to make her way to the door.
"But Miss Sylvia, we've paid for three days," Clancy started. "We plan on staying until then." Pushing his hair out of his face, Clancy backed up towards the bed. It would be Nate's turn to take over watch soon enough.
Sylvia grimaced. She was still frightened by the two men. Both had seen some battles, it was obvious by their physical appearances. Both were scarred and spoke with little fear of anything. Especially the Robetsons. However, there was a sense of comfort in having them at O'Henrys. The sheriff was too much of a coward to enforce his law and these men were unafraid. They seemed prepared for anything.
"We will stay. Tomorrow is a new day. The morning should be quiet. We plan on backtracking a bit. We have to bring back…something." Nate crossed the floor and yawned a bit. There was no use in him trying to fall back asleep. "If there is any more trouble, let us know. But we plan on ending that here. Buck and his yellow bastards have been running free for too long."
"I'm going out to the stables," Nate added. "Clancy, stay put up here. You're better at tracking in the dark than myself, anyways." Loosening the straps on his holsters, Nate pushed past both Clancy and Sylvia. The sound of his boots disappeared down the hallway.
"I'll walk you to your room," Clancy slipped his knife between his skin and pants. His holster had never left his hips. "But I don't think they're here tonight. I watched them head eastwards long after we boarded in the room. They would have returned by now."
"East?" Sylvia questioned.
"Yes, do you know of anyone out there?" Clancy motioned for her to follow. His voice was low.
"Nn—Yes I do, actually." Sylvia stumbled over the words. The thought didn't make sense. "About twenty miles or so East is the Lazy K ranch. Dwayne Killogan's place."